This is not a book, it is a lecture. As much as I may not be 100% fan of Hemingway as a person, with his macho agenda and his passion for bullfighting, I’ve had the joy to realise how terrific a writer he was.
For whom the bells toll isn’t just a great novel. It isn’t a magnificently told story. It isn’t a superb report of the Spanish Civil War. It isn’t an extremely realistic book on Spain and its culture. It’s none of that. Or it’s all of it, but also a fizzling lecture on Life and its mysteries.
Reading it I’ve laughed many times at the obscenities (un)said by the characters as well as cried in sorrow, full of emotion, with love and with anger… The characters are so utterly believable that you feel one with them in the hills. The stories about the barbarous killings on either side, the conspiracies and commodities within the Red hierarchy, the simple piety of goodhearted people fighting for what they considered best, and the intensity of feelings in extreme situations, they all join forces to provide a unique taster of the cruelty and magnificence of life. And the way in which the narrative is paced, stretching the current action with depictions of context, becomes exquisite.
If you happen to be interested in Spain, my country, with all its contrasts, with all its contradictions, this is a great book to understand how we’ve been fighting or tolerating each other for centuries, how deeply our goodness is related to evil, how our virtues are at the same time our vices. I myself have learnt a lot. It’s not like I didn’t know any of the things Hemingway mentions. It’s like it has opened my mind allowing me to put together facts that were disconnected before.
Books that take us places, that’s what we need! ¡Gracias Don Ernesto!